Chemical-free sun protection can feel great on.
An important note on sunscreen safety: The FDA is currently proposing big changes to sunscreen regulations, and only physical sunscreens with the active ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are currently recognized as safe. Until they reach a more robust conclusion in late 2020, the FDA advises, “Americans should continue to use sunscreen with other sun protective measures as this important rule-making effort moves forward.” Our GH Beauty Lab experts agree, and test a range of formulas (both mineral and chemical) that protect against sunburn.
Okay, first things first: What does "natural" even mean when it comes to beauty products? It's a vague term, but in most cases it implies that it's made with minimally-modified ingredients found in nature (like plants or minerals, for example), according to Birnur Aral, Ph.D. and Director of the Beauty Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
The FDA doesn't regulate natural claims, so the term itself doesn't really mean anything concrete. When it comes to sun protection, "natural" usually refers to physical sunscreens that use minerals to block UV rays or sunscreens that don't include oxybenzone (an ingredient that can affect hormones and allergies in humans and has been found to cause coral bleaching and coral death).
At the Good Housekeeping Institute, our Beauty Lab regularly tests and evaluates all types of sunscreens, including sunscreen for kids and babies, face sunscreen, and sunscreen for sensitive skin. We keep current regulations at the forefront when considering sunscreens for testing. To find the best natural sunscreen, we rounded up top formulas, narrowed down the field, and sent them out to real consumers to test. After use, our testers fill out detailed questionnaires. Obviously, sun protection is of top importance, but we also look at other factors. Mineral and zinc oxide sunscreens get a bad rap for being hard to spread, leaving a white cast, or having a sticky feeling, so our pros carefully weigh consumers' responses to find the ones folks actually want to wear.
Ahead, you'll find sunscreens — some tested by our Beauty Lab and others included on the Environmental Working Group's list of safe sunscreens — that are your best bet for natural, organic, or mineral-based sun protection.